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North Up the Pacific Coast – Vision of the Seas Review
So call me a Negative Nelly or whatever they call someone who sees the negative in things, but I cannot ignore the negatives, and to be fair, I shouldn’t. So Let me state up front that this review will have some negative points in it, but let me also state that we did enjoy our cruise and would do it again.
Our first cruises were on the Royal Caribbean Monarch of the Seas and the Carnival Paradise. Both of these ships did cruises out of Los Angeles (Long Beach) to Catalina and Ensenada. Both are smaller ships of their respective lines and are the basis of any comparisons that I made when looking at this cruise. Of course that could be like comparing a SUV to a VW Bug, albeit in the case of the Monarch a classy Bug and in the case of the Paradise a Party Bug!
When we booked this cruise our expectations were a little lower then if we were booking a regular itinerary for a ship because it was a repositioning cruise. It turns out that we should not have had lowered our expectations that much, the cruise ship had its full crew and the entertainment scheduled was for a 7 night cruise while we were on a 5 night cruise, this gave us more entertainment choices not that we needed entertaining since we found ways to entertain ourselves, boy that “Do Not Disturb” sign came in handy.
We arrived for check-in around noon (we wanted to get to the room early, we had not seen each other in a week), which appeared to be a good time as we were able to walk right up to the check-in desk and were promptly handled by one of the agents. A few minutes of verifying paperwork, viewing passports, taking blood (not really) and swiping a credit card (They wanted to keep it but I wouldn’t let them) and we were directed to board the ship. We learned something new on this cruise that we suspected earlier. Arriving early for check-in works to our favor and gets us aboard quickly. Score!
We boarded the ship and headed to the Windjammer Restaurant for the lunch buffet. This was the first of a few disappointments for the cruise. The food for the boarding lunch was dry and bland, kind of like the foods the kids cook at home when it is their turn to cook; compared to the Monarch we were greatly disappointed and hoped that it was not the norm for this Windjammer. Unfortunately this did prove to be the norm for the Windjammer on this cruise but a glass of lemonade improved things some and gave it a tangy taste. Every time we ate in the Windjammer we found the food to be dry and relatively bland, I looked around the restaurant and peeked into the kitchen but I didn’t see my kids working, there were a few dishes that broke the pattern but not many.
When the staterooms were available we visited our stateroom and while we had an interior cabin the layout of the room made it feel larger then our previous visits to the Monarch (They say that shaving makes things appear bigger). Our stateroom was set up with the beds together in the queen configuration, which pleased us since we did not need to request it. Additionally our Crown and Anchor books and the Terry Robes that were part of our reservation bonus were in the room waiting for us. One disappointment here was that we did not see our stateroom attendant until the 3rd day of the cruise, it could have been because of the “Do Not Disturb” sign, but we were careful to not have that out during the bulk of the times that they are supposed to be attending to the rooms. While he was taking care of our cabin he really did not seem interested in addressing any personal cares we may have had. Fortunately we didn’t have any. The only other time we saw our attendant was when he gave us the customer satisfaction survey and pointed out his section. I will give him credit, he did take care of the room, but there was no personal touch and it felt like he had his hand out.
We loved the layout of the ship and how easy it was to get from one area to another. We were in the Centrum quite a bit and enjoyed the music that was often played in that area. We also enjoyed playing tag and hide and seek in the ship. Problem was we hid together and no one came seeking us, so we got a little preoccupied at times. It was on one of these trips that we met a delightful young woman named Sandie who was enjoying her first Solo cruise. What a sweetheart, she was delightful and always had a few wolves following around her. She always had a drink in her hands due to the diligence of the wait staff. Proof that a single person can enjoy a cruise without having a wingman. I would just hate to see her bill at the end.
The mandatory muster drill went rather quickly and our muster leader had a great attitude and did what he could to make the whole muster drill more enjoyable then it could have been. It may have been a bit much for him to be doing the shuffle and the twist and the dive but it was interesting to watch him enjoying himself. He also did a fair imitation of the cruise director and the captain. I think I saw him floating off the side of the ship at one point, but that may have been a trick of my eyes.
Dinner in the Aquarius Dining Room was fantastic; we were not disappointed once by the quality of the food or the service that we received there. We ate dinner in the Aquarius every night, breakfast every morning but one, and lunch twice. Our waiter and assistant waiter were very attentive, after the first night (Well, second night, Sandie was a bad influence on Karla, got her drunk and she couldn’t find her way to the dining room with me trying to guide her. She kept insisting that it was out the aft door of the ship, which would have led us into the wake behind the ship. Karla doesn’t drink much and in that one night she drank more then she had in months, Sandie still drank her under the table and I suspect that Sandie might have drank a platoon of Marines under the table.) the waiters called us by name as we were arriving, had our preferred drinks waiting for us and made us feel at home (Unlike our kids who make us feel like we shouldn’t be home.) Where the Windjammer disappointed the Aquarius made up for.
The shows put on in the main theater were enjoyable, however once again we were disappointed by the shortsightedness of some of the staff. There was a large group on the cruise that needed use of the main theatre and the staff changed the show time for the second night’s second show without notifying the guests. From what I understand when the curtain raised there were around 25 people in the audience because most of the audience showed up 15-30 minutes after the show started because they expected the show at 10:45 and it started at 10:15. This portion of the show was supposed to have been incredible with man-eating tigers (It actually ate a man) and an act where the dancers all melded into one writhing pile, that would have been a sight. *wink*
On the last night of the cruise the main entertainment was a pair of comedian jugglers, as far as comedian jugglers go they were good. But the highlight of the show was not the jugglers themselves but their “victim” for one of their acts. The jugglers looked for a kid to join them on stage and had him lay on the stage, they were going to juggle bowling balls over him. As part of the comedy of the act the juggler dropped one of the bowling balls. The boy they picked up sat up, looked at the jugglers, got up, and promptly walked off stage back to his parents. They apparently did not expect this response because they then proceeded to try and convince the boy to rejoin them on stage. This cruise did not have a lot of kids on it and this boy was the only kid in the audience, so they proceeded to bribe him to return to stage. They finally bought him with a bribe of $10. He rejoined them on stage and they had him lay down again and the second juggler told him he would lay down with him. When he laid down he was on the other side of the boy from the other juggler. As soon as he got settled the boy sat up again, they started asking him not to leave, but the boy apparently was not leaving without his money, he got up and laid back down on the other side of the juggler that laid down, putting him next to the juggler with the bowling balls. This caught the jugglers off guard again because they both started laughing and the act couldn’t continue for a good 30 seconds while they got control of themselves. They then performed the juggling bit. When they gave the boy his money they were short a dollar, and the kid had counted it, out loud, then turned to the jugglers and demanded the rest of his money. We know (or at least strongly suspect) that this was not staged because the boy in question ate dinner at the table next to us each night and so at dinner we asked them about it and they were all excited about what had happened and his brother was asked to go to the late show and recreate the performance.
I took advantage of snacks in the Solarium diner a few times and was greatly disappointed by the quality of the food and the attitude of the staff, I think my kids were hiding in the back room again and coaching the staff here. When I asked for something from the Solarium Staff I was made to feel as if my request was an imposition or annoyance, they much preferred to continue chatting with their crew mates rather than serve the guests, just like my kids.
The wait staff & bartender in the Schooner Lounge was attentive of us as guests and we were impressed with how much they seemed to care about our trip. The best bartenders on the ship are Rommel, Dordi, Diego, Orlando, Nestor, Tishar, and Karl. They did a real good job of helping Sandie corrupt my bride of 23 years. The bartenders, waiters, and waitresses live on tips and this group was earning every additional tip they got, some of the other departments on the ship could take lessons from there folk.
The Casino table game staff did not seem to know what they were doing, it seemed as if I constantly had to remind them that they did not pay a bet, did not remove a lost bet, paid my winnings to another player, or they just did not seem to understand their games themselves. My biggest disappointment in the Casino came from the Texas Hold-Em table, which was only opened once during the cruise, was dealt by a dealer that did not seem to understand the game, and had an outrageous rake of 10% to $10 per hand, most poker rooms, including the poker table on Carnival Paradise, only rake $3-$4 per hand and lower that rake when they don’t have a full game this casino seemed to figure that they could take the players for all they could.
Internet Access, both on the ship terminals and wireless was sporadic at best. I often had 5 bars when I was wireless and could not even connect to the ships server to sign in. When using the ships terminals I rarely was able to get past the login screen and was signed out several times when I attempted to go to Gmail or the other forums. This could be viewed as a positive as it limited my time online and I didn’t get to go to any girlies sites. *wink*
Our stop in San Francisco, CA was great. We crossed under the Golden Gate Bridge around 6:15 in the morning and the lighting was great. We have been on that bridge before and it seemed small, but crossing under it is magnificent and a view that many people don’t get. We docked at pier 35, which is one of the older cruise terminals on the west coast. Unfortunately this terminal is more of a warehouse then a processing facility but it did serve sufficiently as a gateway to the city for us. We did not take any excursions but we did disembark and wander along the waterfront to Fisherman’s Wharf and then over to Ghirardelli’s Chocolate Factory (A must-do stop in San Francisco). We then paid for a Metro Day Pass and took the cable car over to Chinatown, which proved to be an interesting walk. We then took the cable car back to Fisherman’s Wharf and the Streetcar back to the ship.
Disembarking the ship in Victoria, BC was a chaotic mess, on previous trips the elevators to the gangway were disabled for the gangway deck so that guests could line up from the upper deck and not be dropped by the elevator in the beginning of the crowd allowing late comers to move in front of other guests that had been waiting patiently for the gangway to be placed and opened for disembarking. Instead guests that did not feel the need to wait in line were allowed to move in front of other guests and were being directed into place by the activities director, this really hit a sore spot for me.
When we arrived at our final port in Vancouver, BC things moved extremely well. While we had to wait for out group to be called we waited in one of the lounges and enjoyed some Seattle’s Best Coffee served by a delightful young lady who gave me the news that the Vision of the Seas will be taking over the 3-Night/4-Night Baja Itineraries that the Monarch of the Seas currently handles in the next year or so, this means I will get several more visits to the Vision as L.A. makes the best spot for a weekend getaway right now.
While I identified a lot of negatives in this review overall we did enjoy ourselves, but we can see several areas where the crew of the Vision of the Seas could improve if this is reflective of their normal attitude. Hopefully we can schedule a trip on the Vision when it is on a regular itinerary and we can see what a trip then would be like.
Our adventure for this vacation continues with a one night cruise on the Norwegian Star and a trip home on Amtrak’s Cascades, so watch for reviews of these trips.
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